New Orleans is known for being a city full of ginormous drinks, great food, and regrettable decisions. NOLA has a lot more to offer than hang overs though! My New Orleans travel guide will help you navigate where to go, what to eat, and what to do while in New Orleans!
New Orleans Travel Guide
Personally, I love New Orleans so much. The food, people, music, history, all of it makes it one of my favorite places to visit. There’s more to do than drunkenly stumble through Bourbon street, so keep reading to get the low down on the best spots in New Orleans! *DISCLAIMER before even reading this New Orleans travel guide. This was a KID FREE vacation so a lot of these are not going to be little-friendly but honestly NOLA isn’t somewhere I’d take Mal anyways.. However, I know each family is different so don’t worry I have included something for everyone!*
Mandatory Tourist Spots In New Orleans
- Bourbon Street – If you go to New Orleans, you HAVE to go to Bourbon. It’s not just about the frenzy of alcohol, music, and people but the overall vibe of the street that is so electric. I LOVE Bourbon and the Hand Grenades are the cherry on top.(Don’t be fooled by how sweet they are, they’re DEADLY) Bourbon personifies New Orleans tourism- loud, inappropriate, and dirty. It is an experience and definitely worth going but this isn’t all New Orleans has to offer. *They are doing construction on Bourbon so if you’re going soon account for that but it only really effects driving traffic*
- Jackson Square – This is one of the oldest historical landmarks in New Orleans and one that’s highly controversial right now. During our attempt to go visit the square we walked upon a large gathering of people right outside the gates and found all the entries to the square had been closed. Over megaphones I was able to make out that people were there protesting for/against the removal of the statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square due to his ties to white supremacy and slavery (among other things.) A full blown rally ensued and masses of people began walking in solidarity down the street while chanting “NO TRUMP. NO KKK. NO FASCIST USA.” I try to be active in the community especially when it comes to fighting for the right’s of marginalized communities. So I was more than eager to join in on this PEACEFUL political protest. As we were walking, surrounded by nothing but great vibes, mutual respect, understanding, and optimism from those at our side. Tyler and I were blown away at the responses of bystanders both condemning and empathetic to the movement as they saw the passing crowd filled with every color you could imagine. Faces of confusion, disgust, anger, sadness, understanding and everything in between. Don’t let this deter you, definitely go visit the square if you get a chance!
- Canal Street – Canal St is a great area for getting handmade nick-knacks from street vendors and shopping. There is a MAC, LuLuLemon, Banana Republic, Sunglass Hut and some other major stores. If you need to get some basics like deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste,etc there are more Walgreens and CVS in that 3 block radius than even makes sense. OH, and they also sell liquor at the corner stores in case you wanted to pre-game like a big dog.
- River Walk – The River walk is one of my favorite places in New Orleans. It’s so serene and even with the masses of people visiting I always manage to find a nice spot to just chill and enjoy simply being. There is SO much to do in this area, they have bike rentals/tours, paddle boats, the ferry and an aquarium all for the little(s) to enjoy. They also have Harrah’s Casino in the area for when grandma’s feet hurt (aka she wants to get her gamble on!) There is a circular trail you can walk around near the coastline of the River walk but be careful, the actual coast is extremely rocky so I wouldn’t let the little(s) just freely run but definitely still a nice area to visit with or without kids.
Favorite Local Spots In New Orleans
- Rampart St – On this street you can find a good amount of gay owned/geared bars, shops, and hole in the wall restaurants. I love my gays and I make a point to party with them no matter what city I am in. Tyler and I went to this bar called The Page and it was SUPER small but SO fun. If you’re okay with being elbow to elbow with strangers focused on having a good time, this is for you! If not, they do have bigger/more chill bars on Rampart as well. There are a few other gay bars at the end of Bourbon too but Rampart is more geared towards African-Americans so whatever floats your boat, NOLA has you covered!
- Frenchman St – Frenchman St is my absolute favorite place to hear live music in New Orleans. This is where the locals go to relax, hear the best live music, and enjoy a break away from the mayhem that is the French Quarter. There are several great places to hear live jazz which, in my opinion, is a MUST when in New Orleans. The Spotted Cat Club is a very quaint venue where the band is the total focus, I loved this place. *They only take cash so prepare beforehand to avoid a crazy ATM fee* If you want to listen to some good reggae Blue Nile is a cool, laid back venue with a very authentic vibe. The drinks are cheap, the people are sweet, and the music is always live, what is there not to love?
- Algiers Point – Algiers Point is a small parish on the other side of the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. It is a super quick ferry ride to get there and DEFINITELY worth seeing. The view of New Orleans from Algiers Point is gorgeous and arguably the best available. When I stepped off the ferry I instantly felt like I had been teleported into some small, reclusive town. Right off the ferry terminal there doesn’t seem to be much going on but if you go further inland there are B&B’s, restaurants and other stores. It was literally sweltering so we stumbled into a small, homey Italian restaurant called Tavolino Pizza & Lounge for drinks, food and AC. I ordered a super light arugula salad with prosciutto and it was fabulous! I dressed it with some lemon juice, it complimented my cocktail perfectly and was super refreshing. Tyler got a caesar salad and it was equally delicious! For dessert I ordered a homemade pistachio cheesecake that was served in the cutest little jars, it was absolutely amazing. I can’t stop dreaming about that cheesecake y’all. I highly recommend adding this to your itinerary!
- French Market – This area is an outdoor flea market operating 365 days a year from roughly 9:00am-6:00pm. Dozens of vendors pile under the shade of the covered area, selling all kinds of imported and handmade goods. There is an assortment of jewelry, clothes, accessories, handmade journals, art pieces and everything else you can imagine. A lot of the vendors have similar merchandise so take your time to look around and compare prices and don’t be afraid to ask them to come down on prices especially if you’re buying a haul! There are bars, shops and restaurants all nearby so this is an easy way to kill a few hours! I really love getting to talk to the vendors and hearing their stories never leaves me feeling anything less than inspired. So if the market isn’t already calling your name, the fact that it’s a quick walk from Cafe Du Monde should be the cherry on top!
Delicious Food In New Orleans
- Boswell’s – A delicious, authentic, family-owned Jamaican restaurant. Delicious food, great prices, and good service although a little slow. We got the jerk chicken and the curry chicken, HIGHLY recommend both. They have a Caribbean side dish called Callaloo, it’s similar to collard greens in texture and flavor. It is SO good and you can not go there without trying it.
- Bourbon House – This is an upscale seafood restaurant which New Orleans has no shortage of. But there are a few things that set apart Bourbon House from it’s competitors to me. The restaurant is right off Bourbon which made it walking distancing for Ty and I which is always a plus. I made reservations for us prior to us arriving in New Orleans and kind of forgot anything about them until Saturday evening rolled around. When we arrived at the restaurant turns out I made my reservation for the following Saturday.*face palm* However, the hostess was extremely accommodating even though they were busy and we were sat pretty quickly. Our experience was nothing short of amazing. The service was attentive but not overbearing, food was fresh and seasoned to perfection and the ambiance was very cute and romantic. Their menu changes based on availability but whatever you choose I am sure won’t disappoint. There are plenty of fish in the nola sea but Bourbon House is the right catch 😉
- Port of Call – The absolute best burgers in New Orleans, HANDS DOWN, NO DEBATE. The is place has everything going for it which is why the line outside the door doesn’t make anyone even second guess waiting for the awesomeness that is to come. The place is small, it has a dining area in the back and a bar area with a small section to the side for dining as well. If you’re traveling with littles you should wait for a table but if not, it’s always quicker to just grab the seat of whoever is about to leave the bar and eat there. The burgers are huge, the drinks are strong, the service is fun and amazing (a little slow but the conversation makes up for it). So good service and food isn’t enough? Welp, what about the fact that instead of fries you get a huge loaded baked potato?! I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP! This is a local place and you can tell, people are greeted by name and often leave stating they’ll be back next week. Make sure to put this at the TOP of your noms list!
- Willies Chicken – This is a household name in NOLA serving fried chicken, honey butter biscuits, and daiquiris! They have 6 locations conveniently spread out around the Quarter all of which play great music and have standard drink prices. The two locations I frequented off Canal and Bourbon were both great. They get busy but the staff is well trained and efficient. The food was always fresh and hot, although I wasn’t crazy about the honey butter biscuits others seemed to really enjoy them. They’re open late so if you want to stumble in after a long night for some greasy goodness, this is your spot!
*There isn’t a shortage of pizza places in the French Quarter so if you rather use pizza to soak up your tequila, don’t worry, they’ve got you covered!*
Top New Orleans Travel Tips
- Prepare for the heat – IT IS SO HOT(and humid AF).
- Chub rub – For my #thickthighsavelives sisters.. the chub rub is real. Baby powder is the truth.
- Bring comfortable shoes – If you didn’t rent a car and don’t want to spend a fortune on Lyfts make sure to pack some really supportive, comfortable walking shoes. Speaking from experience here, my feet HATED me.
- Prepare for the humidity – Not only does NOLA get HOT, thanks to the Mississippi it gets HUMID. My curls went from defined to full blown Diana Ross fro in a matter of moments the first few times I visited NOLA. So make sure to prepare with some good quality hair products + tips!
- Carry cash – I know a lot of people don’t like to carry cash but in NOLA it is a must. Most street vendors don’t have squares so they only take cash, this is the same for a lot of the local bars as well. We had the biggest annoyance trying to get on the Ferry because they only take EXACT change and refuse to give out change, NO EXCEPTIONS. It cost $2 for a one-way trip so just make sure to get some singles to avoid the hassle of trying to convince them otherwise and ultimately being out of a few bucks.
- Stay hydrated – This is a MAJOR KEY for anyone in New Orleans, because of the heat and humidity I was sweating like a whore in church, literally. On top of being dehydrated by the weather conditions, of course alcohol only further dehydrates you. So make sure to stay on top of your water intake. As a general rule I have a 1:1 ratio. 1 glass of water per 1 drink of alcohol. I upped it 2:1 while in NOLA after learning the first day that 1:1 was simply not going to cut it.
- Check Groupon to save $$ – There are dozens upon dozens of stands that sell different tours of New Orleans or the swamps outside of the city, a lot of which include it’s haunted/spooky past. They have bike, walking, and bus tours, depending on which you choose they have transportation to and from the meet-up spots (for a fee) available as well. Tyler and I did a haunted cemetery BUS tour because again, IT IS SO HOT. At the stand it was $40/person, we found the same tour on Groupon for $35 for the both of us so definitely check out the deals before impulse buying! The tour itself was super fun, our guide was awesome and knowledgeable, the cemetery’s were spooky and we learned a lot! There are tours that are kid friendly as well.
- Chat w/ the locals – I’m not a “tourist” traveler what so ever. I like to be with the locals and to go where the locals go so I make a point to have as many genuine conversations with the people I meet in a new city as possible and always end up with the best recommendations. Locals never fail me even when Google does!